A Response to Primary Red’s post on Justice and the Gujarat riots

Primary Red and I often have differences on the subject of Gujarat Riots. This is a subject with many differences of opinion, but what disturbs me about my conversations with him is that they often become about me personally. About my morals or me supporting genocide and such. Today, things came to another such flash point when I unfollowed him for repeatedly making it about me rather than the subject.

Since then, he has written an excellent post about why Zakia Jaffri must find justice. I agree with that post except for the last section and his stand, and this post is about the difference between them.

Another reason is because I do believe that the last part of his work that addresses the people that do nothing is likely provoked by our unConversation yesterday.

What about those who wield words to dismiss the wail of widows? For them, history reserves obscurity – its ultimate contempt.

There’s more, but it is best you read the original, because it does point out important thoughts for us all to consider, and particularly the state.

He makes excellent points about history being kinder to the weak, and I think this will be an appealing perspective in our image eager times. I also support his call for justice because I believe that safeguarding human rights are the fundamental responsibility of the state and without them, we can’t hope for good things in our future. It is the only way for us to be able to survive this with any integrity and unity as a country.

My issue with Primary Red’s stand is not that post. It is how he applies the thoughts of that post in his interactions with others. I agree completely that the state owes Zakia Jaffri speedy justice. And all the other victims too. At the same time, I do think that the hallmark of the Gujarat riots has been in pitting citizens against each other to devastating effect. In taking the law into own hands and defining justice at will. And the responses to that incident thoughtlessly follow the same track.

The issue is not Zakia Jaffri finding justice for me. She should and I will never ever think that to be a bad idea. The issue is with justice being decided on the streets. The issue is with saying “I trust the courts to arrive at a responsible judgment” not being good enough. The subversion of democracy started by that incident continues unabated as a kind of appropriate response. Without the bloodbath, the essence of the riots – polarizing people against each other, identifying with one kind of victim and lynching the other… continues, even if the lynching is no longer physical. I see this as harmful for democracy and I reserve my right to remain neutral in terms of allocating blame. This is not and will never be about defending Modi, but I will not presume to define justice against my fellow countryman. I find the Gujarat riots revolting, but I am not a freaking Khap panchayat.

Do you realize that the only difference between a terrorist and a person who has decided justice is whether they fire words or bullets? The underlying attitude – that this wrong has been done, and these are the people that must be punished is the same. And there is no guarantee that someone hearing your peaceful recommendation doesn’t decide that he isn’t all that good at writing after all, but a massive wrong needs fixed.

The advice is excellent for the state, I disagree with it as advice for the citizen. There is a reason we have courts. Most of the people who both defend or attack Modi have no clue of the “truth” They were not there. It is impossible to look at a person and know their thoughts. Modi may have indulged in our trademark politicization of tragedy for profit that went out of hand. Mody may actually have conducted a pogrom. Modi may have failed to exert influence on the public opinion and ended up following the tide. Modi may have wanted far more carnage but got pressured by politics. Or something else. We don’t know. That is why we have courts – when two people have differences they cannot reconcile, we place our trust in the system and accept its judgment and enforce it. We put our faith in the constitution and laws so that we don’t end up fighting each other, but follow what is laid out for us when it comes to conflict.

The two sides have chosen beliefs based on whose cause they empathize with more and these beliefs and resulting confrontations in my eyes are the riots still continuing without physical violence. The mental, verbal violence, hate continues. I refuse to participate on either side. If that makes my morality suspect as this person thinks, then I must live with that, because my values don’t allow me to participate in a process I see harmful for my country.

Does this mean that we must stay shut and pray for justice? Not fight for what we think is right? I would say support everything you think needs support. Help it find voice, find justice, but draw the line at attacking another, because you add to the problem. This is very real damage many over zealous people are doing to their cause and their country in their pursuit of control over what gets called “right”.

There is another side to this that goes beyond justice. This side is more of concern to me as someone interested in the unity of India, not just geographically, but psychologically and emotionally. People are not equations to arrive at a total and say this is the right answer and the one right answer. That side is about majority population and minority population.

Neither the Hindus nor Muslims are going to leave the country. We have to co-exist. We can keep the hate of Pakistan out by building high walls, building high walls between each other as people will destroy us. It is easy to hold Modi to blame for the entire carnage. And I certainly hold him culpable and I have made it no secret that seeing him as Prime Minister is my idea of a horror story. At the same time, Modi is one person. The butchers were in the thousands.

Even soldiers trained and commanded to kill will not kill if their conscience disagrees. Do the math.

These are also the majority population. All these lofty ideals are excellent sitting in the US, where paper consequences don’t bite. This is also the person who had said “let Anna Hazare die” right at the beginning of the protests. It is easy to conclude that lifeless equation when you don’t have access to the ground realities and the anger charging the protests. Any person who saw the crowds would know whether “morally right or wrong”, it would have been a security disaster.

Similarly, what do you think are the feelings and hostility for a minority population where the majority not only believe their beloved leader is innocent of intending them harm, but actually elected him back as a leader at least once since the carnage? What “reality” is, is nice on paper, but is this kind of thinking any favor to those being supported here? Where you are not willing to stand any argument, anything except that the popular leader should be punished.

It is different for an activist, a man on the street, an angry person protecting the Muslims to say this, and the Supreme court to decree it. In a democracy, no matter how unpalatable, if a court finds Modi guilty, then the population will largely accept it. If they don’t, order can be enforced. That cannot be done for the hate you generate. Too many voices of hate are wrecking this country on every front there is.

Some worry about a few thousand Muslims, I worry about 1.2 billion Indians whose lives are all increasingly insecure and threatened with this kind of arbitrary blame. For example, those threatening the slutwalk also have a problem with the “morality” of the protesters that they perceive.

Primary Red may be a gentleman and likely physically non-violent, I don’t think every person nodding head in agreement is the same. I also don’t think mental violence as less damaging.

In conclusion, the Gujarat riots were horrifying. The butchery was unimaginable. Every person guilty must be punished as far as they can be identified. Modi included. Muslim killers included. Every victim as far as possible must be compensated and must find justice. Muslims and Hindus. But the guilt must be decided by the courts, not in “tu-tu main-main” type pissing contests. I refuse to take matters into my own hands, because my country is more important than my ego.

What would I like to do about this? Continue to promote neutrality, disengagement from the mental rioting, and encourage support for following procedure.